Weather Forecast


Editorial: Take action against CO poisoning

Don't let yourself become a victim of a silent killer. Take precautions against carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

It's not a threat to take lightly. CO is the leading cause of poisoning deaths in the U.S. In a five-year span between 2006 and 2010, 60 Minnesotans died from CO poisoning.

Awareness of the characteristics of CO, and alarms that react to the presence of this colorless, odorless killer can prevent such tragedies in homes, garages and other spaces where the gas may accumulate, according to the Minnesota Department of Safety, which released an alert about the danger last week. It provided the following information:

Carbon monoxide is commonly associated with car exhaust (if you can smell it, you're breathing some level of carbon monoxide) but any inefficient fuel-burning devices can produce CO, including gas furnaces, water heaters and power generators. In homes, garages and workshops without CO alarms, the poisonous gas can accumulate to a lethal level without warning.

Minnesota statute now requires every single- or multi-family dwelling to have a UL-listed CO alarm within 10 feet of each bedroom; one alarm placed within 10 feet of multiple rooms used for sleeping fulfills the requirement. Residents should follow manufacturer's instructions on maintenance.

If your CO alarm goes off, you should leave your home or building immediately and call 911 from outside. Tell the dispatcher if anyone displays signs of CO poisoning; they include headache, nausea and drowsiness. More serious signs are severe nausea, chest pain, seizures or coma. Pregnant women and people with histories of heart disease or stroke are at greater risk from CO poisoning.

The Department of Safety offers these precautions to help protect you and those you live or work with from CO poisoning:

n All homes should have CO alarms and smoke detectors; both can be purchased at discount hardware and building supply stores.

n Have a qualified technician inspect your furnace and check fuel-burning appliances in the fall. Make sure all fuel-burning appliances are adequately vented and properly maintained.

n When using a fireplace, wood stove or space heater, provide adequate ventilation.

n Portable propane camping equipment and gas barbecues are approved for outdoor use only. They should never be used inside cabins, tents, fish houses, recreational vehicles or boats. Read labels on recreational appliances and follow manufacturers' operating instructions.

n If your car is stuck in the snow, clear the tail pipe of snow before starting the engine. Keep it clear if you use the engine for heat. Watch for symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

During power outages, do not use gasoline engines or burn charcoal in enclosed spaces, including a garage, even if the door is open. Do not use gas stoves or ovens to heat living areas.